Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Winston County Supervisors Discuss Mental Health Options, Landfill Road and Annex Demolition

The Winston County Board of Supervisors met on Monday, May
16th in a regularly scheduled meeting. In addition to normal business the board dealt with several items of interest:

The Board took the opportunity to recognize local student, Samantha Wilson from Louisville High School as she received a $500 scholarship from the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

The Board also heard from representatives of Community Counseling Services, Andrew Levine and Stephanie Taylor. Community Counseling Services meets with supervisors on a regular basis to update them on the use and the availability of programs. Recent state budget cuts became a topic of conversation.

Board Attorney, Hugh Hathorn stressed the crisis situation of mental health facilities across the state and ask Community Counseling for as much assistance as is possible. Hathorn noted that recent budget cuts had reduced the number of beds and treatment facilities for substance abuse treatment and he noted the extreme cost of mental commitments to the county. 

Hathorn indicated that the recent decision to close the treatment facility at East Mississippi State Hospital left no state facilities for drug treatment of individuals involuntarily committed. Hathorn is the youth court judge in Winston County and serves as the Special Master in the Chancery Court. He indicated that the combination of budget cuts, increased drug use and increased cost of private facilities were creating a tremendous burden for the county. 

He noted that he has situations in which commitments are needed, however there is no place to accommodate these people and in some cases the only alternative is to either release them back into the public or place them in a prison cell. He indicated that the cost for a mental commitment is often the County's responsibility and the typical cost is $450 per day.

Board President Luke Parks expressed his concern as well. Speaking of budget cuts, he said, “We keep getting things loaded to us by the state and sent to the counties to pay for. In some cases, we don't have a choice for a mental commitment. That cost is paid for by the county.” Luke noted that voters have short memories and suggested that people stop voting for the party and vote for the person.

Hathorn noted that these costs are a real burden to the county, “I don't think the public realizes the cost to the taxpayer and there were 43 mental commitments and 17 drug commitments last year in Winston County. We have an explosion of meth addiction in this county and we have no place to treat these people” said Hathorn. It was also noted that state leaders dictate the things that the counties are supposed to do, but they provide no funding to do so.

In other business the Supervisors were updated on the Land Fill
Road. County Engineer, Jimmy Kemp noted that the road had just recently been striped but that keeping the road clean would be an issue. As trucks travel to and from the landfill, when they exit, they are often caked with mud and this is distributed down the road.

There was some discussion about encouraging the paving of an area inside the landfill and providing some way to power wash the mud from vehicles. District 1 Supervisor, Burr Warner indicated that signs had been ordered and would be placed on the Landfill Road to remind drivers that no loaded trucks are allowed on the road from the city limits to the landfill. Loaded trucks must enter the facility from the bypass along Poplar Flat Road. The road is restricted at this time for loaded trucks only.

After some discussion, the Board voted to begin the process to take bids to demolish the old Annex Building. Plans have been in place to remove that building and replace it with a three-story structure to provide more offices for county personnel. The funding for this would be available primarily through FEMA. The project has been somewhat delayed due to questions from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the historical status of the structure. 

Supervisors also noted that the other building that was purchased to be renovated known as the Bagwell building would need to be demolished. After review with structural engineers and with planning and drainage issues, it was determined that it would be more cost-effective to remove the building and replace it rather than trying to renovate it.

Supervisors met with several county employees who operate out of the annex building along with the Sheriff, the Emergency Management director and other elected officials to begin plans to move offices from the Annex Building.